A Clean Bowl

From the Archives:

When Cambridge Blanks visited us at the May 2004 meeting one of the blanks I brought was an 8” x 4” spalted beech for less than £3.  The reason for the very good price was that it was a second as it was a bit too soft and tended to crumble if handled too vigorously.  The first inch of the blank was unspalted timber and the rest was very spalted and as mentioned a bit on the soft side.

I had a couple of ideas on how to turn this blank and the first one was to have a go with very sharp tools.  So I made sure all the tools I was going to use were freshly sharpened and then tried to mount it on a faceplate/screw chuck combination.  I eventually managed to get a good grip and started to turn it.  Even though the tools were very sharp the spalted part of the blank wouldn’t cut cleanly and just ripped, so I removed it from the lathe and went to plan B.  This was to soak the blank in the magic rejuvenating liquid for five days, leave it to drain for a couple of days and then have another go at turning it.  I have used this liquid in the past but only by brushing on to difficult areas such as knots or very dry parts of the blank and it has worked very well.  After soaking the blank and letting it drain I remounted it on the lathe, this time fixing it was easy as the wood seemed to have regained its strength.  Once it was mounted on the lathe came the moment of truth would I be able to cut it cleanly, the answer to that was yes.  It cut so easily and smoothly it felt like I was turning a piece of green wood.  I turned the outside then mounted it in the chuck and started to turn the inside unfortunately something came up and I had to leave it for the day before it was finished.  The next morning I went back to finish it and overnight it had dried out some more and gone out of shape and a small crack had appeared on the bottom of it.  There wasn’t much I could do with it so I sanded it as best I could and put a finish on it.

All things considered it came out quite well the bottom is a bit thicker than I would have liked but at least it wont get knocked over very easily.  I finished turning it about two months ago and the bowl is still solid and holding up very well, which considering what the blank was like originally is not bad going.  The main reason I brought the blank was to try out the magic liquid on a large piece to see if it worked as well as other people have said and I am now sold on the magic rejuvenating liquid.

For those of you who have not guessed what the magic liquid is it is washing up liquid, hence the title a clean bowl.  Not the expensive brand names from the supermarket but the cheap stuff from a pound shop, if you are lucky you can even choose the fragrance you like.  It is mixed up in a 1 to 1 mixture and the wood submersed in it and kept in place with a brick or something.  As I said the bowl is not of show quality but more an exercise in the use of washing up liquid to rejuvenate wood and in that respect it was a success.  If I remember I will bring it along to the September meeting for you too see.

John Taylor (Aug 2004)